Thought that I was young
Now I’ve freezing hands and bloodless veins
As numb as I’ve become
I’m so tired,
I wish I was the moon tonight.
My little sister Laura performed an aerial dance to this song by Neko Case on the trapeze last winter. It was a graceful solo piece, brimming with strength and pride. A month ago, Laura killed herself.
I am not here to advise how to heal from a loss. I don’t know how to do that. I do know it is one step forward and two steps back. I do know that the pain can be so unbearable that I want to claw my skin off. I paw at my arms and chest and stomach, seeking relief. I can’t stand being in my own body when the agony rips through. There is nothing that will mollify it; I just have to ride out the wave.
And then the ocean becomes calm for a while. I can laugh. I can work and dream and grocery shop. But still that dull ache follows me, whispering at me to steady myself for the next wave.
On October 29th Laura led our town’s Halloween parade, and then took her life in Sunday’s early hours. She was 25. I can’t reconcile my vivacious, giggling sister who had enviable abs and adorable freckles with the suddenness of her departure. What I can do is find metaphors in our world to help me ride the waves of pain and despair instead of drowning.
Suicide adds complicated, twisted layers to grief. You can drown in the “what ifs” and “should haves” and “how could I have nots.” And the anger. That furious internal burning. I want to scream at her and shake her and ask her how she could do this to me, to our parents, to her friends, to her students, to her beautiful precious self. But mostly I want to hold her and help take her pain away. I can’t do any of those things. But I can look to the moon.
My sister and the moon are deeply connected. Laura shone brightly. People were consistently drawn to her beauty and energy. She hosted couch surfers, worked as an aerial artist, marched in protests, and backpacked through Central and South America. But all her life she had episodes of darkness too. Her darkness never lingered long but always came. Then she waxed again, brightly enough that people forgot about the moonless nights.
On the night she died, there was a micro-moon: a new moon that was the furthest away from the earth in its orbit. She was swallowed by the darkness in her backyard, in the pitch black of a moonless night.
Everything in nature is a cycle. When the moon wanes, we know it will wax again. We know it will be back with its light to give us guidance and comfort and a little bit of magic.
Two weeks after Laura’s death, the moon was the largest it has been in more than sixty years. Referred to as a super moon, it appeared in the sky and on your Instagram feed on November 13 and 14. It won’t be back for a long time - but it will be back, as stunning as ever.
I’m adapting to my new label as a suicide survivor and what that means. For me right now, surviving means searching for peace in the worst thing that I’ve ever experienced. It means stepping back and looking at life from a broader perspective. It means remembering our connection to nature and the inevitable cycles. It means not really knowing what life is about, but knowing that we’re part of something larger and more beautiful.
It means looking to the moon.